Water – A Hotly Contested Resource for Survival and Development
Globally, the water crisis is much worse than most people realize. We are fast approaching a world in which the most hotly-contested resource for development and survival is not oil, but water.
Water sectors are likely to be the most sensitive to climate change. Fresh water availability is expected to be highly vulnerable to the anticipated climate change. While the frequency and severity of floods would eventually increase in river deltas. The arid and semi-arid regions
could experience severe water stress in countries like Pakistan, India, and the Philippines.
Water demand will be affected by many factors, including population growth, wealth, and distribution. Globally, it is estimated that between half a billion and two billion people are already under high water stress, and this number is expected to increase significantly
by 2025. The primary reason for the increase is population growth.
The consequences of climate change for water resources depend not only on possible changes in the resource base (supply)…but also on changes in the demand, both human and environmental, for that resource.
Water quality would suffer from the projected impacts of climate change. Poor water quality effectively diminishes the availability of potable water, and increases the costs associated with rendering water suitable for use. Changes in water quantity and water quality are inextricably linked. Lower water levels tend to lead to higher pollutant concentrations, whereas high flow events and flooding increase turbidity and the flushing of contaminants into the water system.
River flows are expected to become more variable in the future, with more flash floods and lower minimum flows. Both types of extremes have been shown to negatively affect water quality.
Warmer air temperatures would result in increased surface-water temperatures, decreased duration of ice cover and, in some cases, lower water levels. These changes may contribute to decreased concentrations of dissolved oxygen, higher concentrations of nutrients such as
phosphorus, and summer taste and odour problems.
Modern climate change is dominated by human influences, which are now large enough to exceed the bounds of natural variability. The main source of global climate change is human-induced changes in atmospheric composition. These perturbations primarily result from emissions associated with energy use, but on local and regional scales, urbanization and land use changes are also important.
Although there has been progress in monitoring and understanding climate change, there remains scientific, technical, and institutional impediments to planning for, adapting to, and mitigating the effects of climate change. There is still considerable uncertainty about the rates of change that can be expected, but it is clear that these changes will be increasingly manifested in important and tangible ways, such as changes in extremes of temperature and precipitation, decreases in seasonal and perennial snow and ice extent, and sea level rise.
Anthropogenic climate change is now likely to continue for many centuries. We are venturing into the unknown with climate, and its associated impacts could be quite disruptive.
The following list compiles important information related to water:
- 3.575 million People die each year from water-related disease.
- 43% of water-related deaths are due to diarrhoea.
- 2.5 billion People lack access to improved sanitation, including 1.2 billion people who have no facilities at all.
- The majority of the illness in the world is caused by faecal matter.
- Lack of sanitation is the world’s biggest cause of infection.
- At any one time, more than half of the poor in the developing world are ill from causes related to hygiene, sanitation and water supply.
- About 2 in 3 people lacking access to clean water survive on less than $2 per day, with 1 in 3 living on less than $1. (WHO)
- The water and sanitation crisis claims more lives through disease than any war claims through guns. (UNDHP)
- 84 percent of water related deaths are in children ages 0-14. (WHO)
- 1.4 million Children die every year from diarrhoea caused by unclean water and poor sanitation. That’s 4,000 child deaths a day or one child every 20 seconds. (UNICEF)
- 98 percent of water-related deaths occur in the developing world (WHO)
- Nearly one billion people – about one in eight – do not have access to clean drinking water.
Written by Naseem Sheikh
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